The war for the hearts and minds of Malaysia


MALAYSIA is at a crossroads. Almost a year into the new government, the vision of a new Malaysia seems truly dead and buried.

Don’t get me wrong, Tun (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) is doing his very best to right the economy and to banish much of the corruption that has plagued the nation at every level for a very long time.

This by itself is no easy task. Slowly, this is being righted as best as possible.

But there is a more dreadful crisis that I see this government not doing a thing about.

That is the corruption of the soul of this nation.

I believe it is not just for a lack of trying but also for a lack of character, courage and leadership willing to be the beacon and catalyst for true change.

In fact, most, especially within the Malay political leadership in the government today, seem to have the same mindset as those in Umno and PAS.

The non-Malay and more liberal Malay leaders appear to be cowed into submission by these supremacist ideologues in the governing coalition.

Every single response by this government to every single major political issue since May 9, 2018, has been mishandled in the most atrocious manner. Let us just count a few of them in brief:

The Icerd issue. The government, instead of providing leadership on the international treaty against racial discrimination, backed down against threats by thuggish mobs of racist and religious supremacists led by the corrupt who were voted out by the rakyat.

The UEC issue. Again it back-pedalled against its own manifesto. There is no reason for non-acceptance of any quality certification from anywhere to enter a tertiary educational institution but somehow the Unified Examination Certificate from local Chinese independent schools is excluded.

Our SPM in Bahasa Malaysia can get our students into any universities in Australia, the United Kingdom or the United States but the UEC cannot be accepted here in Malaysia.

A Nigerian or Kenyan student can be accepted into Malaysian university with their local certification but why can’t our own students with a UEC?

The Seafield temple incident and death of fireman Mohd Adib. The government allowed events to get out of hand. Instead of taking charge to calm things down, it even rushed to conclusion based on hearsay, further fanning the racial undertones sparked by some racist factions who took advantage of a young man’s tragic death.

The U-turn on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The government again capitulated to extremist elements in society to not hold to principles that would take Malaysia among the ranks of civilised nation.

Instead of making its stand known and firm, and providing leadership on behalf of the rakyat that elected it, it chose to back down against the opposition.

Worse still, there seemed to be elements within the Pakatan Harapan government that were working to undermine what is right in order to curry favour within royal corridors.

Last but not least, the conclusions by Suhakam on the enforced disappearance of Amri Che Mat and Pastor Koh. It is a scandal that should have shaken this government to its very core. But instead the findings were dismissed as mere hearsay.

That was not only disappointing, but utterly appalling. In any other civilised society, the citizens would have rose to protest in large numbers against such extra-judicial action perpetrated allegedly by the nation’s own security forces.

Parliament would have been debating and demanding stern action be taken and a special investigative task force convened immediately. None of these has happened here, though. Why?

The answer to me is clear.

Our current government, in spite of its intent to prosecute those guilty of previous financial scandals, is in fact morally bankrupt.

It is made up of certain people who still hold the same morally despicable principle of bending to mob rule, thinking that it is the only way to remain in power.

And that when one is in power, to continue to deny what is right just for the sake of trying to look good, even though it is obvious to right-thinking citizens that something is truly rotten.

But it is not just the government that is morally bankrupt, the civil service and the machinery of the administration are equally morally bankrupt.

In fact, we, the majority of Malaysian citizens, as a group, are also a morally bankrupt society. Over 30 years of indoctrination carried out by every government machinery, including our education system, has ensured that Malaysia today is a morally bankrupt nation.

I am not proud to make this condemnation. But there is no other way to describe all of the above instances and file them away as anomalies. These are norms of behaviour that characterise the darkness of our moral soul.

This crisis of the soul is worse than the economic malaise we are undergoing. The economy in the short term can be saved but a nation with no moral principles is not sustainable.

In fact, what is happening is no different than what happens in a company that has lost money because of incompetence and corruption.

New money can come in to pay off debts and provide fresh working capital but even bringing in new management will be of little use if the new management is as equally incompetent or morally bankrupt as the old one.

Worse still is if the majority of the workers are also morally corrupt – there is no saving such a company.

A new management with the right moral fortitude must provide leadership to make the hard choices, remove incompetence and root out the source of its moral corruption.

Otherwise, the company will return to its old ways and collapse under its incompetence and moral decay.

Unfortunately, I see none of this happening anytime soon.

In fact, all signs point out to the status quo with respect to how the leadership has chosen to navigate our future.

I do not fault it for its focus on our fiscal problems and ridding us of the fat rats in our society but the hollowness of our electoral victory is palpable when it comes to changing the moral compass of this nation.

At this stage I have to ponder, what future does this nation hold for the next generation of Malaysians who aspire for a more equitable, compassionate, humanistic and economically vibrant nation?

Allow me a very real life example of what has been happening for the last 30 years. Take, for example, our racially-motivated policy for enrolment into public universities. All we are doing is redirecting resources that should be going to the training of a different category of skill-sets - maybe vocational, clerical, lower administrative or hospitality. But instead, such resources end up misdirected for professional and managerial training, with serious ramifications down the road.

Such policy will force schools to make grading more compliant and institutions to relax intake standards just to ensure that its quota is filled.

And this in turn will force the universities to also lower its grading and graduating standards to ensure mass dropouts do not occur.

What do we think will happen when such large numbers of practically uncompetitive graduates graduate?

They will end up unemployable by the larger private sector. And it will fall onto the lap of the government to soak up these graduates into the civil service, including the education sector and government-linked companies (GLCs).

There is something to be said about the capable and then about the mediocre. The mediocre will surround themselves with the same and those of lesser capability.

That is the only way to protect their turf and rise in position and power. And after 30 years of this, what kind of leadership and management have we populated in these places?

And we wonder why our civil service, bureaucracy and education system have fallen on such hard times; and why our GLCs continuously fail and are engulfed in scandals.

And we wonder why our new government responded with appeasements to extremist elements.

And then we look in bewilderment at those who support the obviously corrupt in by-elections.

Why is this such a surprise?

It should not be. We should already know that it lacks the moral principle and courage to do what is right, It has no moral fibre to lead the nation and its society to even show what is right.

It probably also has no capability to be in the lead after 30 years of being filled up by exactly the same failed system that produced our majority of unemployable graduates. In fact, some are not even graduates but claim to be ones!

And these are the people who are filling some of the ranks of leadership in the new government. We basically have the same people with different coloured suits occupying the seat of governance.

So we, the right thinking citizenry of this nation, need to rethink how we approach governance and leadership in this beloved nation of ours. We can no longer expect nor can we allow politicians to be our saviour.

I believe the time has come for Malaysians who believe in a progressive Malaysia to unite at the grassroots level to strategically change the landscape of Malaysian leadership from the ground up.

We need a movement of progressives. And I believe the time is now!

Siti Kasim , new Malaysia